welcome, and thank you for joining me on my farm and studio in southern lancaster county, pennsylvania
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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

making a broom

Have you ever seen those hand-made brooms at country fairs or historical events? I've always loved them. As a matter of fact, I bought a hand crafted hearth broom several years ago in the Adirondacks. Well, after seeing an article online at the Mother Earth News web site recently, I've decided to try making one (or maybe a few) myself. Why? Because I get a kick out of trying new things. 

Having never thought too hard about what material is used to make the brooms, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there is actually a plant that is grown specifically for this purpose! It's called, of all things, broom corn. So now, of course, broom corn is on my seed list. And naturally, a real branch will be needed for the handle, so as soon as spring rolls around I'll be heading into the woods to cut a few. I'm thinking maybe cherry or hickory would be nice. 

Like the wheat I planted back in September, this is a long-term project. Plan now, cut the branches and plant the seed in the spring, keep the plants weeded all summer, and then harvest the corn and craft the broom(s) in the fall. 

I can't wait!

Monday, December 29, 2008

keeping journals

Having never been one for keeping a journal of or for anything, I now have two. One for art and one for the farm. More than anything these are idea books because what I've found is that if I write something down in a place where it won't be lost it also won't be forgotten. It's the same as making a list of to-do items, it frees up my mind to think of other things.

The art journal is filled with rough sketches combined with writing. And the emphasis here is on rough - these aren't pretty pictures - they are visual and written thoughts. Some of them go on to completion as sculptures and others never make it past the sketching stage. A friend was surprised that I use ink rather than pencil which could be erased, but I don't want to get bogged down in trying to make these sketches too nice or too detailed. The intention is to capture the idea and move on, coming back to it later to explore it more fully. Often I'll carry this journal with me in case a new idea presents itself.

The farm journal is filled with lists of plants that I might want to grow for the garden, the pasture, the fencerows, and anywhere else I'm considering. It has suggested planting dates, plant combinations, and more recently a rough planting schedule for the garden. Anytime I come across a new plant or seed that sounds interesting, I'll make a note of it. This journal is slightly more organized than the art journal, but only slightly since it, too, is mostly for jotting down ideas before they are forgotten. When I sit down in January to order seeds, I'll be referencing this book. Each year I'll be able to see what I did previously and what I want to change for the following year. 

Very useful tools, these journals - I encourage you to find a reason to keep one too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

date nut pinwheel cookies

Growing up, we always went to my grandparents house for Christmas dinner. To this day, one of the things my sister and brother and I remember the most is the vast array of desserts that would follow the main meal. It was endless. Cakes and pies and puddings and cookies - oh, the cookies! Platters of them. My favorite as well as that of my sister was always the date nut pinwheels. Several years ago I picked up the tradition and started making them at christmas, so now it's something we once again look forward to every year (along with vanilla cornstarch pudding). Here's the recipe. You've got to try them, they're delicious.

Date Nut Pinwheel Cookies

1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
date nut filling (see below)

Cream the shortening and sugars together.
Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
Sift together the flour, salt, soda, and cinnamon. (I just use a whisk.)
Add dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until smooth.
Divide the dough into two, flatten each half slightly, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm, probably 2 hours or more.
Roll out each half to 1/4 inch thick and spread with filling.
Roll the dough and filling up like a jelly roll, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
Cut into slices 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick, place 1 inch apart on greased cookie sheet (or better yet, use parchment paper).
Bake at 375°F about 8-10 minutes, or until a golden brown.
This should make about 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Filling:
1 1/2 cups ground dates
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup black walnuts

Combine dates, sugar, and water in saucepan and stirring constantly, cook until thick.
Remove from heat and add the nuts.
Allow to cool to room temperature before spreading on cookie dough.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

merry christmas, everybody

Monday, December 22, 2008

sailing

Here's a piece that brings together woodcarving, found objects, and ceramics. This laid back guy is enjoying himself in his spiffy little land-boat. So here's a poem I wrote just for him...

Setting sail for parts unknown
In his trusty little ship
Arrival less important
Than enjoyment of the trip.

This speaks so much to how I want to live - looking at the journey through life as an adventure to be enjoyed, not endured. With appreciation for where we are instead of yearning for where we want to be. Sure, it's good to have goals, they're important. But enjoyment of the process is important too.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

useful dogs

I call my dogs many things. Every once in awhile I call them useful. Don't get me wrong, I love them to death - they are my friends, companions, entertainment, and I wouldn't be without them. But they also have their own agenda. They are sometimes known (not very affectionately) as the destroyers. When in this mode, their motto is: "Is it cute, soft, gentle, or helpless? Then it must die."  Really. I won't go into details, but it isn't pretty. Anyway, today is one of those days that I call them useful. Sitting at my desk, I noticed a commotion at the pasture fence. Looking to see what was going on, I saw chickens running, dogs jumping at the fence, and a red tailed hawk was lifting off, just out of their reach! Good dogs. Apparently the hawk thought he'd have a nice chicken dinner but was interrupted by the dogs who probably objected to him trying to steal what they consider theirs. They're funny that way. Quick to defend their property and it's residents against all intruders. Good dogs. Useful dogs. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

what is normal, anyway?

"Nobody can be exactly like me. Even I have trouble doing it."
Tallulah Bankhead

What does normal mean? Average, run-of-the-mill, common? Or getting along, fitting in? According to Webster, it is "conforming to the standard or the common type; ...regular; ...approximately average." 

It seems to me that thinking and doing things the way most people do is probably the easy road - unless, you just aren't wired that way. Then it chafes like ill-fitting shoes. But while not conforming to the standard might be a good fit for you, it sure does make a lot of the people around you darned uncomfortable. Most folks don't much like different. They don't know what to do with it or about it. Different doesn't fit neatly into a box - at least not one that they have. 

For awhile I figured my idiosyncrasies were just youth. And gradually came to the point where I decided it was time to "grow up" and be normal, fit in, meet expectations (you know, like getting a real coffeepot). But those shoes just didn't fit. The sculpture with this post is one of the first that I did after I began making art again. It was soon after I moved here, real close to my family. Feeling the pressure to conform, it was my attempt to illustrate the desire to break free of both external and internal expectations and limitations, while at the same time celebrating the very things that can hold us back if we allow them. 

And so I have come to the point where I can just smile* when people ask me "how do you think of these things?" - meaning my art - and think to myself, "how can you not?".

*Although inside I cringe because, after all, who likes having to justify the way their brain works?

Monday, December 15, 2008

protection

How often we put up barriers to protect the things we hold dear. Surrounding herself with a barbed wired cage and a hazardous nest, this woman seeks to protect the eggs that she holds in her lap. She is focused completely on what is precious to her. 

Introspective and stark, there is also a beauty in the simplicity of purpose, in the tenderness and care that she freely offers.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

my new hat!

What you see here is a hat my good friend Bonnie made for me. No big deal, right? Except that The wool came from Jack, my shetland sheep. How wonderful is that? I had to try it on as soon as I got it, of course, and it is so warm and soft without a hint of scratchiness. That's probably because of two things - first, it's shetland wool which is known for it's softness, and second because it is lambswool from Jack's first shearing. God, it's almost enough to make me want to learn to knit. Because I'd really like to have a fisherman's sweater from my sheep's yarn.

Friday, December 12, 2008

the path of (re)discovery

As I said in a previous post, I am rediscovering the things that I used to love.

Recently I found my old red and white enamel percolator in the basement. Finding it brought back memories of the delicious smell of coffee that would permeate the house as it was brewing. Why did I ever stop using it? Because I felt (and fell to) the pressure applied by others to just be normal, keep up with the times, etc., and use a "Mr. Coffee" type of maker - not that it makes better coffee mind you, it doesn't. After that, a french press pot was purchased and used for many years. Don't get me wrong, a french press makes a wonderful pot of coffee, but still, it doesn't have that delicious aroma that emanates from a percolator. And so this morning a pot of coffee was put on the wood stove before going out to take care of the animals. By the time I came back in, the whole house smelled wonderful and beautifully strong hot coffee was waiting for me. Ahhhhhh.

It is the simple pleasures, if they are allowed to stay simple, that are so wonderful. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

from planting the seed to the table - cornbread!

So I made the first batch of cornbread from my own corn. Very exciting (what can I say - it seriously doesn't take much)! How satisfying to go from planting the seeds in the ground, to watching it grow all summer, harvesting, drying, shelling, grinding, and baking. And then to be able to serve it for a family Sunday dinner is like icing on the cake - or honey on the cornbread, as the case may be.

Recently I was asked if I toasted the corn. Nooooooo, was I supposed to? Well apparently, that's what some people do. No idea why other than maybe it adds to the flavor. I'll have to try that next time and see just what the difference is.

At any rate, I ground the corn using a "family grain miller" attachment for my KitchenAide stand mixer. Great invention - pour the corn in and wait for it to be ground up. It had to go through twice. Once to do a really rough grind, and then again to get it to the desired fineness. 

Here's the recipe...

Monday, December 8, 2008

new work

I finally finished the "Two Turtle Doves" sculpture, and I'm pretty happy with it. I took it, along with about 16 bird ornaments, a dove tree topper, and the gameboards down to Diddywopps. Hopefully they'll find good homes in time for Christmas.

I have big hopes for keeping myself very busy next year. Tami at Diddywopps is planning for me to have another show there in the fall and for that, I'd like to have about 20 pieces, eight of which are finished. I'd also like to complete all twelve days of Christmas as table-top pieces and perhaps try to get them exhibited somewhere as an entire series - hopefully during this time next year. Then there are thoughts of another series percolating in my brain - using fairy tales or children's stories as inspiration. Thankfully I have no deadline either self-imposed or otherwise for this one. Lastly, I'd really like to do an oversized chess set - but not, of course, a normal one. Perhaps something with birds and sheep...

Saturday, December 6, 2008

bringing home the bacon - literally

this is just a small portion of what I got

So two weeks ago, I picked up the fresh-frozen pork from the butchers, then this morning, I went and picked up the smoked and cured items. I can't begin to tell you how rewarding that was. Filling up my new little chest freezer with meat that was raised here felt really good. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and of a job well done. It was (and is) gratifying to know that the pigs were raised humanely, in the fresh air and sunshine, with healthy food. 

I only kept half of a pig for myself, but even so, I have nearly 90 pounds of meat. There won't be any need to buy grocery store pork for probably the next year. Other than the shoulder roast, I also got spareribs, chops, bacon, ham, scrapple, lard, and the smoked and cured skin - the skin. I asked what people used the skin for and was told it could be used for flavoring soups, baked beans, or other dishes. Or, some people just feed it to their dogs or throw it away, but they include it so folks don't think they were shorted in weight. Oh. Well, in the freezer it went until I decide what to do with it. And for those of you not familiar with scrapple, it's hard to describe. But let's just say that because of scrapple, there is almost nothing of the pig that goes to waste. It may just be a regional thing, but I'd be curious to know if it's available in other parts of the country. And although it may sound gross, lard is great for baking. Before hydrogenated vegetable oil (Crisco) was invented, lard or butter was used. 

On Sunday I made a shoulder roast for dinner with my sister and her family. It was simply wonderful. Flavorful, juicy, tender, and definitely not the other white (tasteless) meat. And even with six of us, we didn't even put a dent in that roast (I froze the leftovers). After Sunday dinner, we had fresh-from-the-oven peanut butter cookies, made with - you guessed it - lard (as well as all the rest of the regular ingredients, which included my own eggs, organic flour, and Crazy Richard's peanut butter). My sister and I both decided that the lard was the secret to our aunt Katie's cookies. Now I have to see if I can replicate my grandmother's shoo-fly pie.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

egg and nest checkers

This is the checkers set that I started way back in August. Once an egg is "kinged", it gets a crown. Very fun. The checkers and their crowns are made of earthenware. The board is made from a birch ply, and trimmed with tulip poplar wood. Multiple coats of paint, a lot of sanding, and a final coat of a hand-rubbed wax finishes it off. My nieces and nephew can't decide which checker set they like best - the house themed one, the checker birds, or this one. I probably will end up making each of them a game board of their own for Christmas. Longer term, I still want to make a chess set. I've got ideas rolling around in my head for it, I just need the time.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

meet the sheep: "Sweet William"

So by now you may have figured out that my sheep's names are all botanically oriented. It's a little tougher to name the boys after plants and flowers, but just like his namesake, William is sweet. I suppose his color would be considered a dilute. Under the golden brown sun bleached tips, his wool is a steely gray. Should make for some interesting yarn next year. He'll be shorn for the first time next spring right about when he turns 1 year old. 

A gentle soul, he's friendly, endearing, quiet and mild mannered and, well, sweet

So now you've met all of the sheep that live here - Jack, Mayapple, Rose, and William. Hopefully if all goes as planned and William does his job, they'll be joined by the lambs of Rose and Mayapple as well as a couple of additional Shetlands next spring.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

doing the things I love

Ahhhhh, finally the day that I've been hoping to have for a couple of weeks has arrived. A day without obligations. No one calling me or needing me, no work to be done - just a free day. First on my agenda was to work on a sculpture I was hoping to have done and delivered to the gallery by Thanksgiving (since it is a Christmas-themed one). It is the second of twelve in a series, and here is the one I did last year...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree
So, yes, this year it is Two Turtle Doves. I should probably do more than one a year or I'll be at this for the next ten years! This one ought to be finished by next weekend because the hard part, which was making myself go out and work in the unheated woodshop is done (I really hate being cold). After that comes the fun part, which is painting, assembling, and finishing all of the various components. In the top photo I'm just waiting for the epoxy on the wire legs to dry before starting the painting process.

The next item on my agenda was starting a batch of hard cider. Never having done this before, it's kind of exciting. Hopefully it will turn out right and not become vinegar. I almost waited too long to do this. Cider season is nearly over and the little farm stand where I really wanted to get the cider from was out for the year. They press their own apples and don't pasteurize or add any preservatives. Plus it's really fresh. 

Last on my agenda for the day is to sit and read while having a nice hot cup of coffee. Tough day, huh? Yeah, well, I needed it. Tomorrow I have to jump back into earning a living, which means phone calls and deadlines.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

another roomate? I think not

It appears the word has gotten out that I like animals. I went out to the garage last night to get more wood for the stove and there on Steve the cat's bed an opossum was curled up. Whoa! I've only encountered one up close once before and while it was little compared to this guy, it snarled ferociously (ever see an opossum snarl? They have very long jaws with many very sharp and pointy teeth - all the better for eating a fresh chicken dinner). So while Steve was winding himself around my ankles, perfectly calm and purring, the opossum and I just stood there and stared at each other. I believe he was quite large by opossum standards, and, well, kind of cute/handsome. The longer we looked each other in the eye, the more I realized I was not going to be able to dispatch him from this world. Sigh. Instead I went back in the house to get the camera, hoping he'd stay long enough for me to get a picture of him. When I came back out, here's what I saw...
Steve was in the process of bedding down with the new guest. Huh. Perhaps Mr. Opossum was invited? I can almost picture it - Steve meets Mr. O in the woods. Mr. O is worried about what he'll do for shelter for the winter. Steve, being the friendly and sociable sort, invites him to his home. After all, he once needed a place to stay and was made welcome, why couldn't Mr. O stay too? Plenty of room, plenty of food and water, nice soft beds. 

Hospitality be damned. I decided to see if I could chase him out. I clapped my hands and made a lot of noise. It seemed to be working as he headed towards the propped-open garage door. At the last minute, he doubled back and came back up the other side of the wood pile. Clearly he wanted to stay. Or, perhaps he was confused or disoriented by the bright lights and all my noise. Deciding to go back in the house, I figured that Mr. O would take his leave now that he realized that this was a human dwelling and perhaps not the best place for wild animals, no matter what Steve said. I gave it an hour and went back out. 

Sigh. Now Mr. O was bedded down and actually sleeping on the woodpile. Back in the house to think. What if he had rabies? I couldn't put myself at risk by allowing this to continue. Armed with a broom, I went back out and opened up the garage door the whole way. Pushing as gently as I could, I urged him towards the door. Finally deciding to show me his teeth, he went out only because he really had no other choice, because he sure didn't want to go. Closing the door completely for the first time since Steve came, I decided he could be locked in at night until a cat door could be installed. 

Hopefully he won't show all his woodland friends how to use it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"welcome, have a seat, stay awhile"

This piece is a bit different than what I typically do, but I wanted to try something more graphic, bold, and clean-lined. A wall sculpture, it is crafted of wood. The chairs were painted with black gesso and finished with a hand-rubbed wax while the houses were textured with modeling paste and then painted and glazed with acrylics using multiple layers in coordinating colors. And while I love power tools as much as the next person (a lot more probably), these houses put up quite a fight. I hate, hate, hate cutting angled cuts on large blocks of wood. No matter whether I use the chop saw or the table saw, I think it's dangerous and it makes me nervous. So even though I have made other houses, this is definitely a one-of-a-kind piece. If I feel the need to make more of this type of house for a future piece, it will probably be in ceramic. Much less stressful for me. 

However - as is often the case, when working on this piece, an idea for another one oozed its way into my brain. It's nearly complete but all I'll say for now is that it will also feature a chair of the same style. I'll show it to you once it's done.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I remember now

It has been slow in coming. Very slow. 

When I left the world of commuting, offices, and florescent lights to work from home over seven years ago, my chest unclenched for the first time in years. And I realized I had never accurately read the signs. To make up for the office environment I would usually eat my weekday lunch by streams, in parks, under trees, and would dread going back. Not because I hated the work - on the contrary, I loved it - but because I felt trapped indoors. I needed windows, sunlight, air. And suddenly, working from home, I could have all of that. It felt good in my soul. Not too long before I left the land of artificial lighting and recirculated air, I took some sort of a career/personality test and was a bit amused but also taken aback by the results. Apparently I would be well suited to be either an advertising executive (which I was), or a farmer. Huh. It gave me a bit of a chuckle, but also struck home

The next event that increased the momentum of change, was the death of my most beloved dog, Isaac. Frustrated by not being able to create a piece of art that would do him justice, I began to make art again for the first time in years. A little here, a little there, nothing very much, but it was a start. It felt good and it felt right. I began re-using a part of me that I had forgotten about.

Then not quite four years ago, I moved here. Back to the country. Where the mornings are still and peaceful, there is an expectant hush at twilight, and it is quiet and dark at night. Where thoughts are not overwhelmed by noise and bustle. Nature is right outside the door with wildflowers and wildlife in the woods, and birds everywhere. As I began to once again appreciate and seek out tranquility and simplicity, art became increasingly important while other things continued to fall away.

And so I remember now those things that I loved before getting caught up with all the stuff that we frantically fill our lives with. Things like growing cut flowers just so I can bring them into the house. Taking the time to explore my surroundings. Noticing small beauties such as the curl of a leaf, a patch of moss, a tiny mushroom. Really looking and seeing how things are and how they could be. Imagining possibilities. Finding peace in the quiet of the day. 

I feel like I lost my way for awhile, but things are back on track. I am making art, garden plans are underway which will include a large area for cut flowers, and dogs are at my side - just happy being dogs - with no other agenda.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

meet the sheep: "Rosebud"

Rose is my other babydoll ewe. Although she looks brown due to sun bleaching, her wool is actually black underneath. It would be kind to say that Rose is an easy keeper, extremely easy. Actually, even though you can't see it in this photo, she has a weight problem. On grass alone she really packs on the pounds. Ideally she'll drop a bit of weight during the winter like she did last year because I'm hoping she and Mayapple will have lambs in the spring and lambing will be easier for her if she is not quite so chunky (hefty, robust, fat).

And just like Mayapple, she is 1.5 years old and was sheared for the first time in March. You can see their roving here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

honey dippers

With thoughts of possibly keeping bees and hopefully harvesting my own honey next fall, I made a series of botanically-inspired stoneware honey dippers. My first efforts were done on the wheel and seemed rather clunky and awkward, so I decided to go with my instincts and hand-build them. I'm enjoying the delicate, organic quality of these much more. Seeing them glazed and finished has me wanting to make more of them. They're fun to make and pretty to look at. Of course they have inspired new ideas for additional sculptures. I'm thinking a series of botanical wall sculptures. I can't wait to replace my boring wooden dipper with one of these.

Monday, November 17, 2008

this little piggy...

...went to slaughter. The pigs have gone. Whew, finally, at last. And while the future looks rosy to think of filling the freezer with shoulder roast, ham, pork chops, and bacon, pigs are not something I want to do again. Maybe it's just me, but they are really high maintenance compared to my other animals. And since I couldn't bring myself to ring their noses, they trashed their paddock. It looks like a war zone. Seriously. Ruts and holes and furrows everywhere. I am going to have to borrow a tractor and completely renovate the pasture by first leveling it back out and then re-seeding the whole thing. 

Rings in their noses would have kept them from rooting, but at a pretty basic level, rooting is what pigs do. It's part of their very nature. And I believe that as much as possible, the animals here at Tulip Tree Hill should be allowed to express their nature. If I don't like it, then I shouldn't keep them. And I don't like it so no more pigs for me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

meet the sheep: "Mayapple"

Mayapple is a 1.5 year old Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep. She's a creamy white color and does indeed have eyes behind all that wool. Typical of babydolls, she is very sweet and even tempered. Calm and docile, she contributes greatly to the peacefulness here at Tulip Tree Hill. She likes hanging out with me if I'm in the pasture, hoping I'll give her a scratch and if I'm working out there, she and the others will often graze companionably near me. 

She was shorn for the first time this spring and I got her wool back from the processors as roving. You can see a photo of it here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

a little bird

This tiny little bird is winging his way to wherever it is birds go when we can't follow them. All of about 4 inches tall if you include the base and wire support, he is made of ceramic stoneware and given a light glaze of a pale glossy blue, most of which was wiped off. The very thin wire barely supports him, allowing him to dip and sway as if flying. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008

meet the sheep: "Jack-in-the-Pulpit"

Jack is a 1.5 year old shetland wether. I recently said his color was emsket, but I believe he's actually a musket. (Shetlands come in many colors and patterns - each has a gaelic name just to make it even more confusing, uh, I mean interesting.) While his head and legs are a dark brown, his fleece tips bleach to a light golden brown but underneath it is a very pale gray. When spun it produced a very pretty warm gray-brown. 

This little guy has quite an endearing personality. Very bold and outgoing with an affectionate streak, he also has a strong sense of self. He can get quite playful, "sproinking" around the pasture when he's feeling wild and crazy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

trees galore

This little guy, kicking back, lounging in the basket of his hot air balloon and enjoying the ride, will go on the tree of ornaments to be auctioned off during "Trees Galore", the Annual holiday exhibition at the Lancaster Museum of Art which runs from November 8 to December 14. In addition to the tree of ornaments, the exhibit features an eclectic collection of two and three dimensional tree-themed artwork by local and regional artists. The opening reception is this Friday evening from 5-8 p.m. during the First Friday festivities in downtown Lancaster.

I plan to be there - it should be fun.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

hot stuff!

Last year, I made hot sauce with hungarian hot wax peppers using the recipe below. Loved the stuff because it had great pepper flavor, but was only mildly hot. I like it in tuna salad, on hard boiled eggs, in baked beans, almost anything that could use a little kick (which is most stuff). This year I decided to expand my repertoire and use three more types of peppers, so I went to the ag auction and bought habanero, cayenne, and jalapeno peppers in addition to the hungarians and made a sauce of each type. For a point of reference as to how hot each is, I looked up their scoville heat ratings. The hungarians are rated 300-700, jalapenos are 3,500-6,000, cayennes are 30,000-50,000, and habaneros are 100,000-350,000. Safe to say that the habanero sauce is not for the faint of heart, but for the true heat seekers. 

I've included the recipe below and as you'll see, is incredibly easy! I encourage you to try your hand at it - especially if you can find the hungarian hot wax peppers.

Recipe for Hot Sauce
1 pound peppers, roughly chopped, stems removed
2 cups white vinegar
2 teaspoons salt

• Combine everything and heat in a saucepan, simmering for 5 minutes.
• Cool, and puree in a blender until smooth.
• Pour into a jar and allow to steep in refrigerator for 2 weeks.
• Strain, using cheesecloth or a fine sieve and store in clean jar.
• Keep refrigerated.

Monday, November 3, 2008

open studio tour

a view of my studio

Well, the studio tour of 2008 finally happened, and once again, everyone seemed to have a very good time. The weather could not have been any nicer - warm, sunny and balmy on Saturday and a bit crisp and cool on Sunday - reminding us all that fall is definitely here. There was hot spiced cider and home-made molasses crinkle cookies for folks to eat and drink here which was another reminder of the time of year. 

At each studio, the artists raffled off one item, with all proceeds going to the Solanco Fuel Fund. This fund is set up to help those who may have difficulty in heating their homes. A timely charity given the cost of heating fuel. The sculpture I raffled off was "Balance" which was won by Glenda. I hope she enjoys having it as much as I did making it. A kinetic sculpture, it has a slightly humorous absurdity,while addressing our need for balance in our lives - the many small things with the larger, weightier ones.

Keep your schedules open for the first weekend of November in 2009 for our third annual Open Studio Tour!

Oh, and by the way, I did not get the noodles or bread made, but did indeed get all the sculptures completed in time for the tour. I even got some sleep!

Friday, October 31, 2008

farm products ready in time for the open studio tour

So in addition to the yarn and roving I talked about yesterday, there will be several other Tulip Tree Hill farm products offered for sale here. 

Handmade soap, with an "orange creamsicle" scent, a couple of apple pies in handmade ceramic pie plates, an array of hot sauces (more on that later), my own corn meal, and if I get time, also homemade bread and egg noodles.

The extra time for the bread and noodles isn't looking real good right now since my first priority is to finish a couple more sculptures that I've started. Don't get me wrong - I have quite a lot of pieces for the tour, but really want to get two or three more done. They are so close, just need some finishing touches. 

I also need to clean and organize my studio, and first thing tomorrow morning I'll be baking some cookies to go with the hot spiced apple cider I'll be serving. 

Who needs sleep? It's a nasty habit and highly over-rated!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

we have wool!

After waiting literally months, the three fleeces that were sent off for processing have finally returned as yarn and roving. The yarn is from Jack (aka Jack-In-The-Pulpit), a shetland sheep, and since this was his first shearing at 1 year of age, it is technically shetland lambswool, which was spun to a sport-weight yarn. Quite soft, let me tell you. The black and the white roving pictured above are from the babydoll lambs, Rosebud and Mayapple. They have a shorter length of wool and so the spinning machines could not handle it. I'm told it will work very nicely for hand spinners. All three of these are naturally occurring colors as found on the sheep - no dyes, chemical or otherwise. 
During the open studio tour, in addition to art I'll also have a small area where I will be displaying farm products such as the wool, which will be for sale. I'll post more about the other stuff tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2008

checker birds

Bluebirds vs. Blackbirds

I've sort of been amusing myself by making gameboards. There are several underway in various stages of completion, but the most recently finished one is shown here. The gameboard is slightly oversized in order to accommodate the birds as the checker playing pieces. It is designed so that when a bird is "kinged" a braided wire ring is placed around its neck. 

Each bird was carved from tulip poplar wood, then sanded smooth, followed by many coats of paint and glazes. Finally, legs were added, beaks and eyes were painted, and they were attached to their bases. The gameboard itself went through a similar series of stages, ending with a hand-rubbed wax finish to give it an especially soft and smooth feel.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

sad day on the farm

My hen with her six peeps were brutally attacked last night. The hen was killed and eaten, one peep is missing, two were found dead and three are now all that are left. I strongly suspect an opossum. I saw one crossing the driveway Tuesday night when I got home. I must have scared him off for the night, but he came back last night for his chicken dinner. So the three remaining peeps are in a more secure location and have been supplied with a heat lamp since they are now orphans and their mother isn't there to keep them warm. 

Monday, October 20, 2008

quote for the day

"I've made an odd discovery. Every time I talk to a scholar I feel quite sure that happiness is no longer a possibility. Yet when I talk with my gardener, I'm convinced of the opposite."
Bertrand Russell

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ad in local paper

love it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

screech owl

I've been hearing an owl calling in the woods, finally looked it up, and found out it's a screech owl. Here is a link to a YouTube video that sounds exactly like what I've been listening to.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

new additions

A few weeks ago I noticed one of my hens was missing. After an extended search. she was found behind the mulch pile, sitting on a clutch of eggs. Today she moved them out of the nest and into a fenced area - smart bird! I counted six and they look like they are a couple of days old. Tonight I'll see if they will go into the barn where they'll be a bit safer than out in the open where any stray cat, fox, owl, or hawk can get them.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Key Within

More keys and hearts... here is another piece incorporating ceramic stoneware. She holds her heart as though in offering, but protects the secret holding the key to it by keeping it in a barbed wire cage. Somewhat sad and pensive, there is still an element of hope.

The woman's head, torso and arms are made of stoneware. She has thin black wire for hair, and is hand painted with oils. The heart is carved from tulip poplar with an antique keyhole. Her skirt is of old barbed wire. The bird is hand carved, again of tulip poplar and is painted with acrylics. It is holding an antique key while perched on a tree made of wire, epoxy, paper, and acrylic paint. The base is tulip poplar and is finished with black gesso and wax.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

a beautiful morning

the front pasture in the early morning light

Monday, October 6, 2008

"putting food by"

This past weekend was a busy one in the kitchen. I started the hot habanero sauce (it has to steep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks), and canned sliced apples as well as apple sauce. But the big news is that I started a crock of sauerkraut. I've been wanting to do this for some time, but was always a little nervous. I mean, you slice up cabbage, add a little salt, cover it, wait 4-6 weeks and you are supposed to end up with sauerkraut. Logically, I know that it ferments and that's what keeps it from spoiling, but it's not something I'm real comfortable with yet. 

So I want to know just when it was that we lost touch with basic food preservation skills. My parents both grew up on farms, and yet just one generation later, I have none of this knowledge and have to look it up on the internet! Seems wrong somehow. 

It also seems wrong that so many people have such disdain for these skills, and sometimes even for the people that practice them. Sad, actually. Yes, I know, you can just go to the store and buy all the kraut you want for not much money and almost no effort. But then that's true of almost anything. Really, you don't even have to know how to cook anymore. Just buy pre-made food and heat it up. It concerns me a little that we have become/are becoming so inept at taking care of ourselves. We spend so much time working to make money that we have no time or inclination to do anything for ourselves. We'd rather just pay someone else to do everything for us. But where is the joy of accomplishment in that?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Open Studio Tour

Tour preparations are well underway and details have been finalized. There are 8 artists participating and we'll have everything from painting to pottery, sculpture, and fiber arts. What is new and exciting this year is that we will be raising money for the local fuel fund, which helps those who may have a hard time keeping their homes warm this winter. Each artist is donating one item to be raffled off, with all proceeds going to the fund. A great way to help others and possibly win a piece of art!
Be sure to check out the tour web site at tourthestudios.blogspot.com. There you will find info about the participating artists, a tour map, and a link to detailed driving directions by MapQuest. 

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Kirkwood ag auction

Aren't they handsome?

So this morning I went to the Kirkwood Ag Auction.
Twice a week, horse-drawn wagons line up along with pickup trucks and trailers while they take turns pulling their loads of produce through the auction house. Box lots are auctioned right off the wagons as bidders stand to one side behind an iron rail. After the wagon loads, selling progresses through the aisles of hand carts. Anyone can buy, as long as you need a LOT of any one thing. And all sorts of people are buying - from people like me who would like some produce to "put up", to folks who have stands at farmers markets. At this time of year, you can find quite a few mums and pumpkins there. 

I was looking for hot peppers, apples, and cabbage. I did buy a box of habaneros so I can make some hot sauce, but would like to go back and see if I can't get some hungarian wax peppers. They make a wonderfully mild "hot" sauce - just slightly hot while still mild enough to be able to enjoy the flavor of the pepper. I also bought a box of cabbage and a bushel of Crispin apples. So it looks like applesauce, hot sauce, and sauerkraut will be on my to-do list this weekend. I've been wanting to try making sauerkraut and if it works, late cabbages will be on my list of things to grow next year along with more hungarian wax peppers. 

Now, those of you that know me know that I normally don't start conversations with total strangers. But I met a couple of very nice people while we were all standing around freezing our butts off. One was an older gentleman who had the most beautiful hand-carved walking stick. He told us he carves them himself and has quite a few of them at home. An Amish lady and I were both standing in a pool of sunshine trying to stay warm when we struck up a conversation. She was there because they raise mums on their farm and had brought a load of them to be sold. They raise most of their own food and have a greenhouse to extend the season. Another woman I met is the gardener for her church and was there to buy mums and pumpkins to decorate with. As we talked more, it turns out we have a lot in common. She also has sheep and dogs. She keeps about 20 sheep and has them to raise lambs for meat as well as for training her border collies to herd. I've gotten better at meeting new people over the years. And you know, usually, in some small way, I'm a better person for it. I need to do it more.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gather In The Aftermath

Gather In The Aftermath is a wall sculpture I created for the "Not Your Mother's Barn" exhibit at Mulberry Art Studios in Lancaster. The three crows on top are being their darkly mysterious and slightly ominous selves. The barn door opens to reveal a tiny drawer. Crafted of paper, fiber and rusted bits of detritus, the nest is hung with fine black wire. On the surface of the barn, written in calligraphy, is a rather melancholy poem by Longfellow, which provides a fairly accurate view of the clearing-up of farm fields in late fall/early winter. You can almost feel the oppressive stillness of an early winter's day.

Flight the Third: Aftermath
When the summer fields are mown, 
When the birds are fledged and flown, 
And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
And gather in the aftermath.
Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mired with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
In the silence and the gloom. Longfellow

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Joy's antiques

Joy's has to be one of my favorite places to look for odds and ends for my sculptures. They have such an assortment of interesting things, and best of all, good prices! The last time I was there, I bought marbles, toy truck tires, a top, some wooden thread spools, and a rocker. I've gotten old rulers, frames, pie tins, keys and keyholes, door hardware, tins, shoe forms, casters, crystal chandelier prisms, and many other bits and pieces, some of which have made it into my work, others still waiting to be included. Sometimes I go with an idea of what I want, but other times I just wander around, open to finding something unique and interesting. I am looking at form, not function. The possibilities of what something could be, not what it is or once was. Looking at everything in a new way, without preconceived notions. It's fun.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

meadow tea

Now you know when I saw this sign, I just had to stop. If you haven't tasted meadow tea, you're missing something. Cold, slightly sweet and very refreshing, it's one of my favorite summertime drinks. And home made root beer isn't much like the mass produced stuff you can buy. Both these beverages bring back memories of childhood summers that seemed to stretch on forever. Now that I've been reminded of it again, I'm going to try to find some meadow tea to plant for myself (after all, I do have a meadow). It's different than the mint teas you can find in garden shops and I've never seen it for sale in any of the local nurseries. I'll have to ask around. And yes, I bought a half gallon jug of each.